BYRON – Kathleen Rock, who will be a senior at Byron High School next fall, attended Illini Girls State last month and won the elected position of State Attorney General in the program.
American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) Illini Girls State is a week-long program dedicated to providing training for young women in city, county, and state government. This year, more than 475 girls from all across Illinois converged on Eastern Illionis University’s campus where they were placed into a two party system, ran for various city, county and state offices, conducted campaigns, held elections, and wrote legislation pertinent to American Legion Auxiliary Illini Girls State as well as the state and nation.
Rock heard about ALA Illini Girls State when she was in 7th grade from Byron Middle School teacher Martha Reilly, and it sounded so exciting, she knew she wanted to go. Illini Girls State is open to girls who have completed their junior year in high school.
“It was such an amazing experience,” Rock said. “The fellowship and bonding with the other girls as we all raced for different offices made for one fun, educational, and memorable week.”
The program also featured a speech contest, requiring a six-minute oral response to a prompt about women’s voices in American History. Rock, who went to State last year for her Speech Team, competed in this Girls State event with 29 others, and took home 3rd place.
Illini Girls State, which features the ALA’s call of “service not self,” also presented guest speakers in the political arena, veterans and/or active service men and women, and held a flag burning ceremony to teach Americanism and flag etiquette. Prior to leaving, Rock gathered 16 worn and retired flags from friends and neighbors in the Byron area to be used for the flag burning ceremony.
“The ALA do such a terrific job developing and organizing this program,” Rock said. “It really ignites patriotism and understanding about this great country we all live in.”
Plus, participation in Girls State is listed on many college applications and they offer three different scholarships, so attending can be a nice bonus for future plans.
The ALA prides iteself in providing not just educational benefits and the importance of voting and getting involved in their community, state, and nation, but also in giving young women confidence and knowledge to go forward in their adult lives and not be afraid to go for their dreams.
“I like the idea of advocating for others,” Rock said. “And so I thought running for Attorney General – where you can protect people’s rights, fight for their safety and public interests, and advocate on their behalf – would be a good fit.” While she finishes up her senior year, completes her college applications, and considers career options, Kathleen’s experience at Illini Girls State will be one she continues to draw upon and treasure.